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Larry Thomas

Tentative Contract Averts East Coast, Gulf Coast Port Strike

WASHINGTON - East Coast and Gulf Coast port operators reached a tentative contract agreement with unionized dock workers over the weekend of Feb. 2, averting a strike that could have shut down the ports on Feb. 6.
     According to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which had been overseeing contract talks since September, the two sides reached agreement on a master contract, but several local issues must be resolved at individual ports.
     "Those local negotiations are ongoing and will continue without interruption to any port operations," said FMCA director George Cohen. "I am extremely pleased that the parties have reached a tentative agreement for a comprehensive successor Master Agreement."
     The agreement must still be ratified by members of the United States Maritime Alliance, which represents port operators, and the International Longshoremen's Assn., which represents about 14,000 dock workers.
     Details of the tentative agreement were not released, but the FMCS said in December that an "agreement in principle" was reached on the contentious issue of container royalty payments, which are supplemental wages based on the weight of the cargo the number of hours a union member works during a specified period.
     In a statement posted on its website, the ILA said the new master contract includes "landmark agreements on automation, protection of chassis work and powerful jurisdiction language."
     The union's original six-year contract expired Sept. 30, but has been extended twice while the two sides continued negotiations.

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